Less than an hour from Seattle, a mountain pass is crisscrossed by two thoroughfares – busy interstate highway 90 and the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,600 mile long hiking trail originating in Mexico and ending in Canada. The pass is also home to a small ski area; the cluster of stores and restaurants around it must be a welcome sight to footsore through-trekkers on the PCT. For those of us who don’t have time for long hikes, a section of the PCT is easily accessed from a parking lot at the pass. August is a good time to hike the trail – the nearby ski slopes, covered in snow all winter, are a swelling symphony of wildflowers and berry bushes.
Last weekend we drove up to Snoqualmie Pass, parked the car, and hiked to Lodge Lake, a small, clear lake in the forest on a short spur off the PCT. On the way back we picked blueberries and huckleberries, and this morning I made buttermilk pancakes with a LOT of berries in them. With pure Canadian Grade B maple syrup (Grade B has a stronger maple taste) it was a very satisfying breakfast.
Setting off through alpine meadows…
A highway sign in the meadow looked incongruous – is it a joke? I don’t know. I think it shows the winter path between two ski slopes. The pink pods in the foreground are on Fireweed (Epilobium augustifolium) gone to seed:
In the distance we noticed a couple picking berries near the ski lift.
Brilliant scarlet Indian Paintbrush (Catilleja) flowers peppered the meadow and Red Elderberries (Sambucus racemosa) provided more spots of red among the greens and golds.
Pretty Pearly Everlasting (Analphis) swayed in the breeze. I gave the photo below a dreamy look (using Lightroom) to evoke how enchanting it felt to me in the meadows, surrounded by wildflowers.
Just as the berries themselves were differently colored, the leaves of the blueberry and huckleberry bushes were changing, presenting a kaleidoscope of colors.
A few Foxglove (Digitalis) plants provided a surprising burst of pink among the bushes. They typically bloom earlier. A paler flower had spider silk stretched from its blossoms.
Leaving the meadow behind, we entered the forest, where one of my favorites, the dainty Deer Fern (Blechnum splicata) grows among moss-covered logs. The upright fronds with their curled under leaflets carry the spores, while the non-spore bearing fronds lie prostrate on the ground.
After many twists and turns and ups and downs on the trail we arrived at the lake. Despite passing a fair number of other hikers, only two people were there, fishing from a log along the shoreline.
I sat down on a log, took my shoes and socks off, and dangled my sore feet in the clear, cool water. Dragon flies buzzed around me, too fast to photograph, and swallows swooped over the lake. In the log’s shadow, water striders took refuge from the bright sun.
While we ate peanut butter sandwiches we were mesmerized by the warm sun on our skin, the sparkling green reflections on the calm water, and the buzz of darners and dragonflies. It was pure peacefulness. I put my shoes back on and clambered along the log-strewn shoreline to a huge old log that was so wide I could lay down on it. Which I did. Peering under the surface of the water, I saw little brown newts with bright orange undersides scattered among the submerged logs.
Back on the trail, a young Deer Fern growing on a mossy rock caught my eye, but my legs were a bit sore, so for the rest of the way I was a single-minded walker. I was thinking about those berries in the meadows.
There is was – the forest opening out to the meadow, the mountains beyond – and the promise of ripe berries to pick, and eat, and pick, and eat…
I was glad I had a big bag.
I stooped and gathered and got too much sun, but I didn’t care. Finally though, my water was gone and I knew it was time to take that last little piece of trail back to the car.
Clouds scudded across the peaks as we got to the parking lot, now full of activity. It had been a very pleasant day – meadows dotted with wildflowers, a deep forest with grand old trees, a picturesque lake to sit by, and abundant wild berries to taste and gather.
The prize at the end? For me, it was going across the street to an ice cream/espresso stand and ordering two shots of espresso poured over two scoops of vanilla ice cream. I slurped happily all the way home.
And today, well, the picture just does not do it justice! Trust me, the blueberry pancakes were fantastic!